Four rums won the Platinum Medal-Superlative and 33 rums won the Gold Medal-Exceptional in the recent Beverage Testing Institute (BTI) rum judging. The top three rums were Overproof Rum, while one was in the over three year old category.
The best ranked rum with 97/100 points was Rest and Be Thankful 1998 23 Year Old Longpond Single Cask #10245, 57.6% ABV. Established in 1753, Longpond is one of the oldest distilleries in Jamaica. Today it is part of the National Rum of Jamaica. The distillery works with a column still and two stills. It was closed from 2012 to 2017 for extensive repairs, but is now back in operation. A large part of its production ends up in special bottling plants and blenders.
BTI’s judging panel described Jamaican rum as:
Light golden color. Aromas and flavors of honeydew, pineapple cream, vanilla bean and heart of palm with a round, dry medium body and a very long finish with hints of grilled pineapple upside down cake, pralines and banana bread, sweet pepper, black tea and salumi. Intense, extremely full-flavored; if you’re into George Clinton-level old and funky, this is the rum you’re looking for.
Achieving 96/100 points was Black Tot 2022 Master Blender’s Reserve Limited Edition Rum. Black Tot is one of the fantastic rums in the world and can always be relied upon to deliver outstanding quality. He is a perennial medalist at international spirit competitions.
This UK-based blender specializes in a range of traditional British Navy rums. Like its Royal Navy inspiration, Black Tot rum is primarily sourced from Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad, although rums from other locations may be used.
Sailor’s rum had no set recipe; Instead, it was a style of rum that was sweet on the palate, with dried fruit, sweet molasses, notes of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove spice. It was bottled at “navy strength”, usually 54.5% ABV, although proofs varied.
BTI’s tasting note for Black Tot described it as a showpiece:
Golden amber color. Aromas and flavors of Nutella, mocha and leather, roasted red berries and menthol with a round, dry medium to full body and a very long finish, with accents of strawberry syrup, maduro tobacco, vanilla roasted hazelnuts, caramel and chocolate and banana forage. With complex layers of roasted fruit flavors, this is just a stunning rum.
He also scored 96/100 points Rest and Be Thankful 2000, 21 Year Old, Monymusk Single Cask #13916, 61.7% ABV.
Although this rum carries the same Rest & Be Thankful brand as BTI’s top-ranked rum, it is produced at another historic Jamaican distillery, Clarendon. The molasses-based rum was still-distilled in 2000 and then aged in Jamaica in oak bourbon casks for 21 years before being bottled in the UK.
Single cask rum bottling is becoming more prevalent in the spirits trade, an inevitable consequence of the premiumization driving the category. This single cask trend is particularly prevalent in Caribbean rums. It has proved especially fruitful for special blenders and fillers.
The official BVI tasting note described the rum as:
Light golden color. Aromas and flavors of butterscotch, roasted water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, vanilla Greek yogurt and peach sour beer round, dry medium body and very long finish with notes of kyra, lemongrass and pickled mushrooms, raspberry and creme fraiche. Like distilled raspberry goat cheese with caramel and apricot topping, an incredibly expressive rum that’s downright delicious.
The best-ranked rum in the category Rum aged more than three years was Kuleana Rum Works (Hawaii) Hokulei Old Rum, Batch No. 07.
Hokulei means “garland of stars” in Hawaiian. It is a blend of seven rums aged from 18 months to 18 years. The blend consists of four molasses-based rums from Panama, Nicaragua, Barbados and Venezuela. These rums were initially distilled at 85% to 94% ABV. They were aged “2-3 years, 3-8 years, 5-8 years, or eight years”.
To that mix, the distillery added Kuleana’s own aged Hawaii Rum Agricole made from fresh sugarcane juice distilled to 50% to 74% ABV and aged for 18 months in ex-Cognac casks and a 15-year molasses-based rum from Barbados distilled to 90%. up to 94% ABV.
The final addition to the mix is an 18 YO molasses-based rum from Trinidad distilled at 90% to 94% ABV.
The resulting blend offers a complex, nuanced rum with layers of flavor. BTI’s official tasting notes described the rum as:
Gold color. Aromas and flavors of pineapple, vanilla, caramel and caramel syrup with a velvety, dry medium body and very long finish with accents of caramel sauce on grilled pineapple, lime oil, green banana and green apple peel. An extremely wonderful rum that is grassy and fruity with a superb balance of barrel flavors that brings it all together.
Other top-rated rums worth trying include: The Equiano Rum Company, the original limited edition 02 rum (95/100 points); E Leon Jimenez, 2019 La Aurora 110th Anniversary Rum (94/100 points); Holmes Cay, Heritage Blend, Exotic Edition (94/100 points); Panama Pacific 9 Year, Aged Rum (94/100 points); and Bacardi Gran Reserva, Ten Rum (94/100 points).
The top ranked rums in Rum Three Years or Less, both with 94/100 points, were Don Q Double Aged Finished Rum in Barrel (Puerto Rico) and Plantation Isle of Fiji, Double Barrel Rum.
In the BTI tasting note, Don Q describes:
Dark amber color. Aromas and flavors of roasted coconut butter, kola nut, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice with a round, dry medium body and long finish conveying notes of ginger cookies with fresh coconut shavings, walnut and black tea paste, bitter cocoa and dates and figs. The aromas and flavors of many seasons of extended aging; pour one ice cube on a warm summer evening and let this rum infuse for about an hour.
The Isle of Fiji Plantation tasting note described it as showing:
Gold color. Aromas and flavors of flambéed banana, caramel and butterscotch, Madagascar vanilla and sweet tobacco and grilled pineapple with chocolate sauce with a velvety, dry medium body and long finish with notes of grilled banana with vanilla caramel and chocolate caramel, brown butter cinnamon and nutmeg, leather and tobacco. Light and ethereal sugar cane tones mixed with rich barrel aging characteristics make this a truly delightful sip.
Other top rums in the category were Plantation Original Dark Double Aged Rum (93/100 points), Myers Reserve Dark Rum (93/100 points), i Jung & Wulff, No. 2 and Jung & Wulff, no. 3 (both 93/100 points).
The best ranked white rum with 93/100 points was Plantation 3 Stars Silver Rum and Bayou White Rum. The official BTI tasting note describes Plantation 3 Stars as:
Clear color. Aromas and flavors of lemongrass, butcher paper, salted caramel and mocha with a soft, dry, light to medium body and a long finish showing hints of vanilla, black pepper, banana leaf, marzipan and plantain. Extremely light, clean and excellent for mixing; the reference column is still white Rum.
Bayou Rum, on the other hand, is described as an exhibitor:
Clear color. Aromas and flavors of toasted vanilla bean, nougat, caramel and ripe plantain with a silky, bone dry, light to medium body and a long finish manifesting notes of vanilla whipped cream, banana paste, raspberry nougat and honey. A super clean white rum that still tastes like sugar cane. This rum will make a great Daiquiri and satisfy all your rum cocktail needs.
The best was rum made from fresh cane juice Kuleana Rum Works, Hawaiian Rum Agricole, batch no. 105 (93/100 points), while the best aged fresh cane juice (90/100 points) was Ron Zacapa Solera Gran Reserva XO Especial Rum from Guatemala.
The BVI tasting notes describe Kuleana rum as:
Clear color. Aromas and flavors of heart of palm, apple, pear, mango eau de vie, coconut butter and aloe with a round, dry medium body and long finish with accents of green sycamore and lime, heart of palm and bamboo, lemongrass and coconut butter. It would make a beautiful Daiquiri and shows the natural sweetness of the fruit and the earthy, grassy undertones of the sugar cane.
While Ron Zacapa Gran Reserva rum is described in BTI’s official tasting note as containing:
Rich bronze color. Aromas and flavors of fruitcake, cigar box, flambéed bananas and cherries and cocoa vanilla bread pudding with a glyceric, dry yet fruity medium to full body and medium long finish that reveals notes of dark chocolate covered figs and dates, caramel and marshmallow, candied orange peel covered in dark chocolate and a box of fresh leather and cigars. With rich notes of chocolate covered pastries, this is a great rum to add depth and oak support to a cocktail.
The top ranked Spiced Rum was Bayou Spiced Rum (90/100 points). BTI’s tasting note described it as:
Golden amber color. Brown sugar, praline, Nutella, banana bread and caramel apple aromas and flavors with a round, dry, medium to full body and a medium-long finish showing notes of milk chocolate with artificial cherry syrup, vanilla nougat, candied bitter orange peel and pie of pecans. The vanilla and rum flavors have an earthy and nutty quality that will pair especially well with coffee cocktails.
The best ranked flavored rum was Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Rum. BTI’s tasting note describes the rum as:
Light golden color. Aromas and flavors of tangerine, candied pineapple blossom, mambasa orange and raspberry together, and fruity ribbon gum with a satiny, fruity medium body and a medium-long finish showing accents of pineapple candy, banana, vanilla and watermelon. Light, fun and extra fruity, a fun base to start tiki cocktails at home.
This year’s Drinks Testing Institute judging produced another superb set of top medals. Some are perennial winners, while others are new or relatively unknown brands. As in previous years, the single cask offering was exceptionally good. If you’re a rum drinker, there are plenty of new rums to try.
Forbes – Lifestyle